The Social Security Administration (SSA) is preparing “personnel to return to field offices and resume normal” pre-pandemic operations as early as January 3, 2022. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most remote services have been offered since March 17, 2020. In general, “in person appointments” at Social Security field offices are limited to “critical situations, such as for people without food, medicine or shelter”, and who must apply for benefits or recover them.
Start back to the office
“The Social Security Administration recently announced the next steps to guide the safe return of employees to our new normal business operations,” SSA spokesperson Nicole Tiggemann told AARP. [Kilolo] Kijakazi, along with senior leadership, will start again on December 1, 2021.” Other workers could return as soon as possible on January 3, pending negotiations with unions and the drafting of rules on telecommuting, social distancing and other pandemic-related issues.
Like many companies and organizations, Social Security has turned to options such as online, telephone and video services to run its operations during the pandemic. Nevertheless, people in rural areas and those without access to transportation or technology have struggled for help with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
“We know those options don’t work for everyone,” Tiggemann says. “In order to improve service, especially for people who have had difficulties reaching us during the pandemic, Social Security will begin implementing the re-entry process across the agency as soon as possible, including taking steps to to increase accessibility.”
AARP welcomes a return to normality at SSA. “From our point of view, of course, we’d like to see those offices open and staffed as soon as possible,” said Joel Eskovitz, director of Social Security and Savings at the AARP Public Policy Institute. “It’s been a year and a half and there are only a few services that can’t be done remotely.”